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Glint of light, alert engineer save Silverton man

SHAUN STANLEY/ Durango Herald

Dan Markoff, left, owner and engineer for the Eureka & Palisade woodburning steam locomotive engine, stands with EMT Alex Sharp at the Durango train depot. The two assisted an injured man who fell onto the tracks Monday morning less than a mile south of Silverton.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

Luck, but more importantly, teamwork, probably saved the life of a man who fell from a cliff Monday and landed beside the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks just south of Silverton.

The victim, Jerry Lyle, a Silverton resident, was in serious condition Tuesday at Mercy Regional Medical Center.

Dan Markoff, owner and engineer of the Eureka & Palisade No. 4, an 1875 steam locomotive, came upon the victim as he returned from the annual Railfest celebration.

“We left Silverton about 9:30 a.m. and were approaching a right-hand curve when I saw a glint of light,” Markoff said Tuesday at the D&SNGR station. “I thought it was a beer can or Coke bottle, but then I saw a light moving back and forth.”

Markoff stopped the locomotive, which was pulling a caboose with about 20 passengers, to find a man with his head against the rail and one hand over the rail.

“There was blood on his face, and I could see his scalp in one spot. He could barely talk,” Markoff said. “If he had been around the curve, I wouldn’t have seen him in time.”

Markoff said Lyle signaled with a small LED flashlight.

Lyle, a 63-year-old freelance photographer and popular DJ for Silverton Community Radio, was on a cliff positioning to get a photograph of the train as it rounded the curve. But he apparently lost his footing and tumbled down, Markoff said.

Among the passengers was Alex Sharp, an emergency medical technician with the Amador County (Calif.) Fire Protection District.

About the same time, Markoff saw a group of kayakers on the Animas River.

“I asked if there was a doctor among them,” Markoff said. “They said ‘no’ but that one was an EMT and that he had a full kit of supplies.”

Sharp said that between him and the kayaking EMT, they made Lyle comfortable and got medical information to pass along to doctors later.

Sharp declined to share specific observations, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that limits what information can be given about patients.

The Minko, a vintage motorcar that carries the middle name of Markoff’s father and travels with the Eureka & Palisade, returned to Silverton for a backboard on which to transport Lyle, Markoff said.

The Minko wasn’t adequate to transport the patient so a larger one was sent by the D&SNGR, Markoff said.

The Silverton San Juan Ambulance Association took Lyle from Silverton to a parking lot at Durango Mountain Resort where he was transported by air to Mercy.

Markoff said Lyle couldn’t have fallen long before he arrived because the Galloping Goose, another old-time locomotive that participated in Railfest, left Silverton about 15 minutes before he did.

“They would have seen him,” Markoff said.

The Eureka & Palisade No. 4 is one of three Baldwin class steam locomotives in existence and the only one in operating condition. The others are in the Smithsonian and the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento.


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